Tuesday, December 7, 2021
Wyoming is not necessarily a state that comes to mind when you think of soccer hotbeds, but playing in the heart of the Rockies forged a passion for the game for coach Brett Wanner.
According to the coach, having a population less than a million in the state provided plenty of opportunity to play growing up. It also gave the junior and senior year All-State selection a chance to also participate in the ODP system and elsewhere.
“I had a great opportunity in the Rocky Mountain region to play for the Colorado Rush as a guest player.”
Despite his soccer success, other sports still took the forefront and he would go in another direction upon graduation.
“I took a football and baseball scholarship heading into college, and now I wish I had gone more soccer. But, I ended up transferring from Hastings (Nebraska) where I played football and baseball to the University of Wyoming, where I did walk on and make the soccer team.”
After finishing school, which he attended through the Army ROTC program, he went on to a career with the Army, following in his father’s footsteps.
“Like most college kids, paying for college can be a struggle. I used the Army ROTC program as a means to subsidize tuition and books, and of course a job as an Army Officer right out of school. Not to mention flying helicopters is pretty cool too!
“Choosing the Service (i.e., Army) was fairly easy. My dad was a retired soldier and I wanted to follow in his footsteps; and to be honest the Army – being the largest Service – had more opportunities and choices than the other Services. The experiences I have had with the military are priceless. I was able to travel the world, land in my current job, serve my country and most importantly meet my beautiful wife Kathy, who was also an Army Officer.
Amidst his time in the Army, Wanner served for five years in Germany, where he walked on and played for a third-tier club. That experience proved useful for today.
“I spend a lot of my time when I’m coaching using a lot of those techniques I learned overseas.”
Those techniques added to a coaching pedigree that began as a teenager back in his home state.
“I’ve been coaching since I was 18, 19 years old. I was recruited by some of the local Lander FC coaches in beautiful Lander, Wyoming in the Wind River Mountains. I coached a lot of the U13s, U12s – developing players there. And then I took the opportunity when I was in college to get some of my coaching certificates – got my first E, D and C licenses at college during J-Term.”
After finishing up school and while abroad in Germany he took a break from coaching. But when he returned stateside with kids he returned to the sidelines in Virginia, guiding some of the FC Fredericksburg teams there from U8s to U12.
Then his government job brought him to the northwest and the start of his tenure with the Spokane Sounders.
“I’ve been with the Sounders now eight years. I started with a group of 2005 Select kids. Took them all the way up to playing Premier level soccer at RCL division 3. I graduated up to coaching the U10 group on the South Hill with Manny (Faridnia) and now I’ve got the G2008 Shale team.”
A program manager with the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency within the Department of Defense, Wanner works at one of the agency’s two schools here in Spokane – the other located back in Fredericksburg. The position includes work with multinational partners, which continues to provide global experiences as he recently traveled to Croatia.
“As part of the Department of Defense (DoD), there is definitely still a military influence to my daily work; and yes there is natural overlap with soccer coaching. Like my current job and past military jobs, I coached, mentored and facilitated learning personnel daily. So you could say the military continues to have a large influence on my coaching style. Because I have been coaching for a long time, it’s not as difficult to separate the military directive ‘telling’ approach, and the coaching approach of ‘listening and guiding.’ I think I’ve found a happy balance that keeps players on their toes and focused, all the while watching players grow as soccer players and young adults.”
And watching them grow is something Wanner truly enjoys.
“Coaching has been a great way for me to separate the everyday grind of life – home ownership, bills, work, etc. Many of my co-workers continually ask how I have the energy and patience to go coach a group of 16 teenage girls after a long day’s work? I tell them it’s all about the fresh air and exercise!” he said with a smile.
“I coach because I really enjoy mentoring, and watching our youth grow. What’s also interesting, I have a background in coaching multiple sports (football, basketball, baseball and soccer), but since my kids are all interested in soccer – all three play on teams within the club – I have naturally gravitated to coaching it.
“I no longer formally coach my kids, for good reason, but when the stars align and I’m able to catch a game or two of theirs I will always be there. The hard part is trying not to coach them while they are playing; nowadays I look for a comfortable spot at one of the ends of the field and watch from a distance to not be a distraction. In my mind there isn’t a better team sport for kids, and I’m ecstatic and grateful to be part of it.”
And when he needs to fully unwind and get away from both work and soccer, Wanner naturally gravitates to a lifestyle prevalent to the northwest and his native Wyoming.
“Growing up in the mountains of Wyoming set me up well to be an avid outdoorsman. I love to hunt, fish, hike, camp, etc. – of course all things I like doing with family and friends alike. And when the weather is nice, I enjoy getting on the Harley for a nice ride through the backroads of Eastern Washington.